When tempted by Satan in the desert, Jesus was promised all the kingdoms of the earth in exchange for worshipfully bowing down to the Prince of Darkness. Jesus refused Satan’s temptation of political power.
Later, Jesus taught his disciples to preach the good news “unto the ends of the earth.” But it wasn’t to be a grassroots campaign for power over non-Christians, because, as he explained, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Unfortunately, some privileged Christians are on a crusade for power. Ever hear of the Council for National Policy? Its invisibility isn’t accidental.
According to the organization’s rules, “The media should not know when or where they meet or who takes part in their programs.”
Recent speakers addressing the CNP behind closed doors include Clarence Thomas, Alberto Gonzales, Bill Frist, Dick Cheney, Donald H. Rumsfeld and former CIA director James Woolsey.
While membership is strictly confidential, a document obtained by the Institute for First Amendment Studies revealed a who’s-who list of the far right.
The CNP was formed shortly after Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election by a few ultra-conservatives envisioning an organization to implement their right-wing agenda.
The original founders of the CNP merged the anti-government, low-tax fringe wing of the Republican Party with the Religious Right. Anti-government social conservatives representing business elites would provide the funds. The Religious Right would provide the grassroots organization.
The CNP is an umbrella organization composed of many of the nation’s most influential conservative business leaders and activists of the Religious Right. Although strategies on moving the country toward the far right are developed during their gatherings, it’s not their role to implement these plans of action. Rather, the CNP serves as a facilitator for its members, leaving it up to the political and/or religious organizations they are affiliated with to fund and implement the strategies.
During the mid-1990s the alliance between social conservatives and the Religious Right almost came to an end. By 1998 member James Dobson gave a stirring speech to the 1998 CNP gathering, where he proceeded to rail against what he saw was the Republican Party’s betrayal of the conservative evangelical voter.
According to a transcript of his speech obtained by the Institute for First Amendment Studies, Dobson was dismayed that the Republican-led Congress was expounding “safe sex” by advocating the use of condoms, and had increased funding to the National Endowment of the Arts and Planned Parenthood.
Nevertheless, Dobson’s concerns were assuaged during the 2000 presidential election. Prior to the primaries, the Wall Street Journal reported that candidate George W. Bush met with the CNP in San Antonio.
Although the session was taped, requests for full disclosure have been denied. We don’t know what Bush promised, but it is notable that he appointed CNP member Ashcroft as attorney general, and soon after the meeting, conservative leaders began to pronounce the younger politically moderate Bush fit for the mantle of Republican leadership.
While many CNP members claim to be Christians hoping to influence public policy away from secular humanism, in actuality their agenda is a savage capitalism influenced by a nativist expansionist ideology maintained through a hierarchal political structure.
The CNP operates from a system of moral absolutes of their own design, fusing and confusing their standard with God’s Word, and making their own pronouncements, not the biblical text, inerrant.
Doing God’s will today means we are to follow a new Law, a system of regulations which coincidently secures and protects white supremacy and class privilege.
Christian ethics become reduced to their issues alone: disbanding abortion, denying gays from obtaining civil rights, lowering taxes, reintroducing Christian teachings into public schools and funding Christian schools with tax revenues.
Christians aren’t just saved by grace anymore, but by who they voted for.
When faith merges with politics, the cause for justice is hampered.
This does not mean that people of faith should avoid political involvement, seeking to create laws and procedures that reflect the common sense of justice found within most faith traditions. It does mean that the narrow definition of any one faith can never become the sole foundation of a pluralist society, or our democracy risks becoming a theocracy.
Was Jesus’ ministry one of political domination or of providing hope to the suffering? The Good News wasn’t, and isn’t, a franchise slogan or a marketing tool to accomplish capitalist ends.
It’s because I am a Christian that I oppose making any one religious tradition, including my own, the standard by which ALL members of society would be forced, in the guise of democracy, to abide. No matter how tempting it would be.
Miguel De La Torre is director of the Justice and Peace Institute and associate professor of Iliff School of Theology in Denver.
Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.